On the heels of its 100th Anniversary celebration in 2014, Wilson Golf has come out of the gates strongly this year (click here to read the CDGA magazine article re: Wilson’s 100th). The company continues to rebound from the rocky road of the not-too-distant past, receiving praise for its equipment, signing new additions to its tour staff, engaging its retail partners, and launching consumer marketing initiatives like Gear Up. Tim Clarke’s recent appearance on Morning Drive from the PGA Demo Day further signals Wilson’s resurgence.
I have always been a Wilson guy at heart. I started with Wilson Golf clubs, and I suspect that that is where I will finish. As Wilson has had its ups and downs, I have watched with interest even when I was not playing golf. This post is not so much about Wilson’s comeback story. That story is better told by My Golf Spy’s John Barba in his fantastic 3 part series on the brand:
This post is about my personal experience with Wilson, the company and the brand.
First, the company:
There have been periods in my career when I was consulting, and doing a fair amount of networking to research companies I admired. Even though I wasn’t playing much golf at the time, I wanted to learn more about Wilson Golf. Executives from Wilson were gracious enough to share their time and business insights with me. Having been the leader of several turnarounds myself, I know how demanding the job is on one’s time. In particular, I am still struck that Tom Gruger was that generous with a stranger, in spite of his tremendous workload.
After sending Tom a presentation I made for fun (I already admitted to my nerdiness) on potential marketing strategy and tactics, he was kind enough to invite me to his office for a meeting. (click here to see my 2008 strategy deck) It was a thrill to visit Wilson’s headquarters, and our conversation was very interesting. We discussed the ongoing efforts to leverage digital media to enhance the Wilson Golf brand, as well as the opportunities inherent in effectively conducting e-commerce. Tom also shared some of the macro challenges associated with managing a global brand with outsourced manufacturing, various retail partners, and fierce competitors with deep pockets.
These looks behind the curtain were highlights for me. Suffice it to say, that Tom is one of the good guys in my book, and they deserve continued success.
Now, the brand:
I grew up in golf with Wilson. The head pro at Old Elm Club during my caddie days, Don Wegrzyn, was on the Wilson staff and the golf shop was always stocked with the newest equipment. Several of Old Elm’s best players carried Wilson Staff irons, and they just looked right to me. The W/S shield, the red & black, the shiny forged metal, the classic shapes – all tremendously appealing to my eye.
CLICK ON ANY OF THE IMAGES BELOW TO OPEN THE SLIDE SHOW
The mosaic above provides a tour through all of my Wilson gear, some of which I have just recently re-acquired. Of course, Wilson has always been an iron brand to me, and so my three sets of Wilson irons are the prizes within my collection.
- The first set of clubs I ever bought for myself with my caddie money were the 1987 Wilson Staff Fluid Feels. Those were the clubs that I played throughout the meat of my competitive junior golf days.
- My second set, purchased right before I quit playing golf for close to 20 years, were the 1991 Wilson Staff FG-51 Tour Blades.
- When I came back to the game recently, I found a used set of 2009 Wilson Staff Pi7s – my first ever set of non-blade irons.
- I have mixed in various Wilson wedges, including the classic R90, and a Gooseneck 1-iron over the years as well.
Now that I have gathered up all of these clubs, as well as several of my old persimmon woods, I intend to tune them up and put them back into rotation in my bag to satisfy a recent “throwback” urge. Full disclosure, my current everyday irons are not Wilson for the first time in my life. The clubs are great, but it is a bit strange, and I suspect that I will ultimately switch back.
Heading into the 2015 season, I can’t help but notice the symmetry between my journey in and out of the game, and Wilson’s recent history. We both wandered away from our roots, and now we are both finding our way back. While I continue my comeback to this game I love, I’ll be cheerleading Wilson’s comeback as well. After all, you can’t beat a great comeback story.
Do you have a Wilson story? I’d love to read it. Comment away…